How Much is Alimony in California?

Alimony—which is officially referred to in California as spousal support—is often awarded when spouses have been married for a considerable time and one spouse earns substantially less than the other. Whether you will be paying alimony or are seeking alimony to maintain your home and living situation, it is natural to wonder how much support courts typically award.

Couples can set their own terms for alimony, either in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement or during negotiations in preparation for divorce. As long as both spouses follow the rules regarding disclosure, their agreement is likely to be approved by the court.

If you want to set your own terms, of course, it is helpful to understand what the default standard would be. So in this post, we explore the factors that go into setting alimony amounts in California.

Is There a Formula for Calculating Alimony?

While some courts use a formula for calculating temporary alimony, the approach to calculating long-term alimony is much more nuanced and subjective. Temporary alimony is paid to a spouse to provide support while the divorce proceedings are in progress. So, depending on the county where you file for divorce, the court may apply a formula to calculate support obligations while the divorce is in progress. A common starting point is to take 40% of the paying spouse’s net monthly income and reduce that by 50% of the receiving spouse’s net monthly income.

When a court is setting an amount of alimony to be paid after the divorce is finalized, the process is much more intricate.

Courts Must Consider a List of Factors

Section 4320 of the California Family Code sets forth a list of issues the court is required to consider when determining whether one spouse should pay support, how much support amounts should be, and how long support payments should be required. While there is some legal guidance regarding what each factor involves, there is no specific rule about whether certain factors are more important or how much weight should be given to each factor. Judges have considerable discretion to make decisions so long as they take the factors into consideration. This means it is important to work with an attorney who is prepared to present persuasive arguments in favor of your goals when it comes to alimony.

Understanding the Factors that Affect Alimony Decisions

Factors that impact the determination of alimony amounts include:

  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The couple’s standard of living during the marriage. This includes types of cars driven, vacations taken, and homes lived in.
  • The degree to which each partner earns enough to keep up the same standard of living that they enjoyed while married.
  • The assets held by each spouse and whether they are extensive enough to make support unnecessary.
  • The marketable skills of the spouse receiving alimony. Do they have skills or certification? Is there a job market for those skills? Does the spouse need additional training or education to find a job?
  • How greatly was the career of the receiving spouse damaged by time spent out of the workforce to care for the home?
  • Whether one spouse supported the other during education or career training.
  • Whether the spouse who will be paying support has enough income to pay support.
  • The needs of each party. In this instance, “needs” goes beyond basic necessities to include other factors involved in the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage.
  • The age and health of each spouse.
  • Whether the spouse requesting support has limited ability to work due to the need to care for minor children.
  • Any history of domestic violence.

In addition to these and other issues, the court can also consider “any other factors” that the judge finds to be relevant. It is wise to work with an attorney who can present evidence regarding these factors in favorable light and who is also prepared to raise additional issues that support your goals for alimony.

Skilled Advocacy Can Make a Significant Difference in an Alimony Determination

Because the amount of alimony rests with the discretion of the judge, it is wise to work with an experienced and dedicated legal advocate when you are seeking alimony or being asked to pay support. In negotiations, a knowledgeable attorney from Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC can argue for your objectives based on legal precedent to help you achieve an agreement without the need to incur additional court costs. If the issue cannot be resolved out of court, our team knows how to ensure that all the factors in your favor are presented persuasively to the judge.

To learn more about the ways we can assist with alimony or other divorce issues, just schedule a confidential consultation.  

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